Baruch Spinoza’s Moral Philosophy and EthicsJune 26, 2021
Spinoza regarded man as an essential part of Nature. He put it this way: “I will study human actions and desires just as I study lines, planes, and bodies.”
This sentence of his indicates that human behavior is to be explained in terms of cause and effect, as if it were any natural phenomenon. First of all, if we look at the freedom of will; People often think that they are free and have choices. However, they are the victims of an error in this regard.
Because a state of ignorance at the human level makes us people think that we have the freedom of will. People like to think they can stay out of the strict determination of nature. Because of this ignorance, people cannot see clearly the reasons for most of the actions; because these reasons are not easy to distinguish. For this reason, they fall into a belief that their action is based on their free will. However, like every event, every action has a necessary reason. In the necessary connection of nature or the universe, anything else is unthinkable.
Accordingly, Spinoza put forward a naturalistic ethical understanding: All people strive to survive or maintain their existence as a part of their nature. Spinoza calls this effort ‘conatus’. When Conatus refers to the mind and body, it is called appetite, and when this appetite becomes conscious, a state called desire arises. We experience pleasure when we become more conscious of self-protection and empowerment, and pain when there is a decline in this competence. Spinoza defines good and bad in relation to the concepts of pleasure and pain. There is no substantive good or bad; We call what we like and want good, and what we dislike bad. Thus, good and evil reflect a subjective evaluation. Because our desires are determined, so are our judgments.
According to Spinoza, every human being wants to survive. This effort is called conatus.
If all our desires and actions are determined by external forces, what can be said about the human being as an ethical being? Spinoza says here, just like the Stoics, “we cannot change the determination of events, so we must accept this order as it is, but we can control our own attitudes and attitudes”. We can achieve this only through the knowledge of God, by gaining the highest mental recognition. Morality is possible by improving our knowledge by moving from the lower level of knowledge with fuzzy ideas to the highest level of knowledge of God, where intuition is valid. At this level we have clear and distinct ideas that everything is infinitely and perfectly arranged in God. Only knowledge can lead us to happiness, because only through knowledge can we be freed from being slaves to our passions. The more we understand our emotions, the less influence our passions have on us. As long as we manage to see everything under the imperative mood, reason gains more power over the emotions, and man becomes less likely to be their toy. We should try to understand not only our emotions, but also the order of nature. Because we can understand and make sense of our own lives only from the perspective of eternity. So we must see all events through the idea of God as the real cause.
Passions enslave us only when we lack knowledge. But we are inherently capable and willing for a higher degree of competence; we can achieve degrees of competence through our intellectual powers. This is how God’s knowledge-based love (intellectual love) is formed in us. From such knowledge arises bliss accompanied by the idea of God; this happiness is the love of God. It is understanding that it is infinite and being able to see everything under this mode of infinity. Of course, this love of God is not love for a holy person. It’s more like the kind of mental pleasure we have when we understand a mathematical formula or a scientific operation. This path of morality is quite arduous, but one should never give up on it.
According to him, there is only one infinite-absolute substance.
Everything is derived from this absolute substance (God), and everything is also God himself. That is, God and the universe are one and identical (Pantheism). Since man is a part of this universe, he is not actually free. True freedom is achieved by knowing the necessity of one’s own nature, adapting to it, and gaining the knowledge that God is one and the same thing with the universe. This information; It is true knowledge that makes us strong and virtuous and leads us to freedom. This knowledge is to know God, to grasp that everything necessarily derives from his essence. This knowledge is also the pinnacle of virtue.
Man lives in a dilemma of passions and thought. Passions are states of powerlessness and vice. In passions man is a slave. In the state of thought, man is free. The task of morality is to overcome the passions with thought. Human freedom with knowledge